Kristy Wikum and Matthew Mesibov

As those reading this article are typically leaders of post-acute care provider organizations, we bet this will not be a shock, but not all people adapt to changes or even tweaks of a pre-existing process. This is what we found with educating clinical staff about the option of including appropriate, additional modes of therapy, such as group and concurrent therapies.

In other words, some clinicians had discomfort with adapting to including these additional modes of therapy delivery and especially the “group therapy” mode — even knowing their clinical judgement is the final driver as to which mode is utilized.  

We needed to show clinicians, especially those without group experience, how to choose appropriate candidates and keep the group engaged. There has also been the challenge of some clinicians who believe anything but individual therapy is not effective, or less effective. So let’s address these concerns.

Supporting clinicians without experience comes through our more veteran clinicians and, in particular, our clinical team. Resources have been proactively created in our professional associations and can be of assistance to either physical therapists (PT) or occupational therapists (OT). The first resource we recommend is the “Group vs. Individual Care” decision tree.

In addition to providing a decision tree, this one-page document also compares a list of benefits between individual and group therapy. Some of the listed benefits of group therapy include:

  • Creates a network that promotes growth and learning by enabling patients to receive and give support, and to share experiences from different points of view 
  • Increases access to care by allowing for more patients to be seen during a given time Improves patients’ socialization skills
  • Reduces social isolation and enhances coping mechanisms
  • Allows for modeling — a form of learning in which individuals learn by imitating the actions of others; is more cost-effective than one-on-one therapy
  • Is supported by evidence to promote increased patient engagement and sustainable outcomes
  • Enables the therapist to perform interventions in more complex or distractible environments that mimic real-world experiences
  • Mirrors day-to-day life tasks that patients typically do with others

In a healthcare world that seeks evidence and is progressively moving toward a value-based payment system, it is wonderful to be able to provide evidence related to group therapy. This can be found amongst the Value of Physical Therapy documents and in particular “The Effectiveness of Group Rehabilitation.” This two-page document provides synopses and citations for 17 types of group therapy.

Finally, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) also has resources at with the key word search “Group Therapy.”

Clinical staff and staff in the field are finding value with the addition of group therapy as one mode among a few for delivery of therapy services. With the above listed resources and ongoing communication, we continue to assist therapists in understanding the effectiveness of this mode. In the end, people thrive when in social contact, and since we are in the business, as our tagline indicates, we are empowering people to live their best lives.

Kristy Wikum, MS, CCC-SLP has more than 25 years of management experience as CEO/ president of Centrex Rehab and former executive director at Augustana Therapy Services. Clinical Physical Therapy Specialist Matthew Mesibov, PT, GCS, is responsible for providing clinical support to the physical therapists and physical therapy assistants at Centrex Rehab.